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Santa Cruz Faculty Association Solidarity with Graduate Students
by Santa Cruz Faculty Association (SCFA)
Wednesday Dec 11th, 2019 9:59 AM
The SCFA sent the following message to faculty on 12/11/19
Dear Colleagues,

The Santa Cruz Faculty Association (SCFA) supports the graduate students’ demand for a COLA to deal with the extreme rent burden they face living in Santa Cruz. The students have spelled out in clear terms the reasons why they are conducting a grading strike. Their letter, below, provides their rationale as well as their views for how faculty can support their campaign.

SCFA supports the graduate students. Although we are not calling for a sympathy strike, SCFA encourages faculty to express their support for the graduate students’ COLA demand, and to not volunteer to take up the TAs’/Readers’ work in their absence. If you do not have a TA/Reader assigned to your course, you should continue your full range of traditional work, including assigning and submitting grades. If a TA/Reader normally assigns and/or submits grades, you are not required to prepare or submit grades on their behalf during the strike. We have attorneys on our side to ensure that faculty who decline to volunteer to take up struck work are protected to the maximum extent that the law provides.

We will be back in touch very soon with more information.


SCFA Executive Board


Dear Faculty,

As you are likely aware, graduate students on this campus have been organizing for a cost of living adjustment (COLA) to bring us out of rent burden and to parity with grad students at UC Riverside.

With the ever-increasing cost of living here in Santa Cruz, spending 50% or more of our income on rent is typical for graduate students, leaving us in a position of economic precarity and constant stress. This cost of living adjustment is necessary for us to continue to function as graduate students on this campus.

On Sunday, December 8, UCSC grad students collectively called for an unauthorized wildcat strike during finals week of Fall 2019 as part of our COLA campaign. Working TAs and GSIs will be withholding grades in a strike action designed to disrupt the everyday functioning of the university.

We are calling on all faculty to support us in this strike.

It should be noted that graduate students have tried going through currently available channels-trying to negotiate a stronger contract (UCSC students voted overwhelmingly against our current contract, which did not include the pay increase we need), organizing in favor of Measure M, and bringing our concerns directly to the university administration-but the administration has not taken our concerns seriously and has taken no concrete steps to alleviate the economic burden on grad students.

The decision to engage in a grade strike this quarter is our response to this dismissiveness and inaction. The strike carried overwhelming support in both a straw poll circulated on Friday, December 6 among rank and file members of the graduate student worker union (with almost 500 responses, with the clear majority indicating a willingness to strike immediately) and in the general assembly held on Sunday, The strike is now in effect. Its rallying call is: No COLA, No Grades.

As faculty, your support is essential to our success, as we have been faced with no choice but to take this disruptive action in order to win the COLA that we desperately need. We are sympathetic to the difficulties that disruptive actions present for faculty, and care deeply about the education of our undergraduate students, but collective pressure is needed to address this immediate crisis. We are fighting for the basic security we need to live and do our jobs.

We are asking you to publicly express your support for us and the COLA grade strike. Concretely, this support includes:

(1) No retaliation against graduate students who participate in the strike;
(2) Refraining from crossing the digital picket line, whether this be picking up the grading slack or entering grades when grad students have refused to do so;
(3) Advocacy for the strike action and the COLA campaign among the wider faculty population, including but not limited to adding names to the circulating faculty petition. Many-but not all-faculty have already signed this petition.

Again, these forms of assistance will be crucial to our ability to win, especially as we await the university administration’s potentially repressive response. Supporting the existing graduate students in our fight for a COLA also benefits faculty in the following ways:

– Incoming students will be more likely to accept their invitations to join the program. Currently, rent burden is such a serious issue that it deters incoming students, and this will only get worse without a COLA while current graduate students are protesting for a COLA.
– Most graduate students need to find additional income to supplement our stipends, which cuts into the time we need to do our work and causes us a great deal of stress. With a COLA, current graduate students will be more productive, more focused, and more likely to complete our degrees in a timely manner.
– Graduate students provide service to the department above and beyond our paid positions, including a great deal of mentorship to undergraduate students, and we want to have the time and resources to continue to contribute in this way.
– Our lack of adequate pay is a serious issue for diversity, equity and inclusion, as students with disabilities, first-generation students, students of color and international students are hit the hardest.
These students may be less likely to have family support to supplement their stipends (many also send money home to support their families), more likely to face housing discrimination, and less likely to be able to work additional jobs to supplement their income. International students are legally not permitted to take on any additional jobs, and on top of that are expected to progress through their programs more quickly than domestic students, which puts them in an extremely difficult position.
– Supporting the COLA grade strike and campaign now will help us win a COLA sooner, preventing escalation into even more disruptive strike actions in the future. Please let us know that you affirmatively support us in seeking a living wage with the COLA campaign, and speak out on our behalf to university administration and others.
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